The Bamboozle 5/5 & 5/7

May 17, 2007

Every year, northern New Jersey hosts a festival currently known as The Bamboozle, a multi-day event. It’s origins lay in mixed areas: The Great Bamboozle and Skate & Surf, festivals started in the early 2000s. Last year’s The Bamboozle was the first to settle down in East Rutherford at Giants Stadium with a giant bill of primarily punk, hardcore, ska, indie, emocore, and alternative-influenced acts. The Bamboozle 2007 would be the second year of the two twelve-hour day events.

I’ll preface this review of the evening by noting that I tend to get up close for most of the bands, usually near the rails or in the closest pit possible–so the reviews you’re getting are, for the most part, up-close-and-personal, not written from a hundred yard away point of view. Also, I will acknowledge missing a lot of bands–a lot of good bands, actually. Unfortunately, due to scheduling, there were a lot of overlaps. I made game-time decisions and picked the bands I wanted to see when conflicts arose.

I arrived early Saturday to scout the area, locating each stage. A similar setup to previous years, there were two main stages, and two areas of two sets of of side stages. Additionally, there was a small MySpace-sponsored stage and a stage inside the Giants practice dome that was filmed all day. I met some forum members at their tent, and scored whatever free samplers and stickers I could from the tents around the premises.

Main stage act The Receiving End Of Sirens kicked the day off for me, and they played exceptionally well. This was my first experience with the band since the departure of vocalist/programmer Casey Crescenzo. Brian Southall, his replacement, competently fills in however, and the band rocked through songs from their debut LP, Between the Heart and the Synapse, and their upcoming follow-up, The Earth Sings Mi Fa Mi. The set’s highlight was “Planning A Prison Break”, my favorite song from their debut. The Boston act set the tone for the day well, attracting a surprisingly large number of fans and playing near flawlessly for thirty minutes.

Texas’s Daniel Hunter, and his project PlayRadioPlay! were next on my list, so I wandered away from the main stage to the Macbeth side stage to check him out. They played well, though I didn’t know much of his material (to my knowledge, he only has a handful of songs posted online) and left to meet up with some friends. I ran into Kenny Bridges of Moneen and got his autograph on my ticket. Unfortunately, their set time conflicted with Motion City Soundtrack and I didn’t get to see them.

Bayside played next, and their set was quite solid as to be expected. One of the few main stage acts to draw out primarily hardcore fans, they played a nice mix of older material and some new songs. They didn’t play my favorite songs from the new album, unfortunately, but they did play “Duality”, “I And I”, and “Dear Your Holiness”. “Montauk”, “Blame It On Bad Luck”, “Existing In A Crisis”, and “Devotion and Desire” from their 2005 self-titled album rounded out a great set from the boys from Queens.

I elected to see Oakland’s The Matches at 3PM next, in part because I forgot they’d be playing tomorrow and in part because I was hoping to be up front for Thrice’s s 3:50 set. In doing so I missed out a handful of bands I would have liked to have seen including Paramore, Men Women & Children, Silverstein, and Manchester Orchestra, although there was practically a four-way conflict there anyway. Under their old name, The Locals, The Matches performed a set primarily of songs from E. Von Dahl Killed the Locals, an album recorded under that previous moniker. Shawn Harris is one of the most passionate frontmen in the genre, and he truely showed it during this performance, which was taped for Bamboozle TV. I managed to catch his guitar pick, and briefly spoke with him afterward to get it signed and congratulate him on the great set while he epitomized the punk DIY scene they rose from, walking about the crowd selling copies of their album for $10 from a cardboard box.

Thrice was due next, and though I was stoked to be in front on the rail for their performance, security quickly whisked me away, claiming they had to evacuate the bubble before Thrice came on. I re-entered for their set, showing my credentials (which were required for this set and also for Jack’s Mannequin’s set the next day), and sat down on the Astroturf, learning that Dustin Kensrue and Teppei Teranishi would be playing an acoustic set. When they finally took the stage, though, I stood up and watched what would be one of the best sets of the weekend. The duo kicked it off with The Artist In The Ambulance‘s “Under A Killing Moon” and also played two others from that 2003 release including the title track and “Stare At The Sun”. More importantly, they played a couple of brand new songs (which were absolutely stellar) from the Earth-themed disc of their upcoming four-disc album. They closed the set with a solid cover of The Beatles’s “The Ballad Of John And Yoko”. Afterwards, I got to speak with Dustin and Teppei, who signed the back of my ticket and assured me they would be playing another new song on Sunday from the Fire-themed disc. Due to complications with Thrice’s equipment, their set ended much later than scheduled and I crossed Cartel off my list of bands to see.

I stuck around inside the bubble to The Sleeping under their Biker Women guise. The crowd was made up primarily of die hard The Sleeping fans, which made songs like “If Your Heart Was Broken, You Would Be Dead” even better. As Biker Women (dressed in Harley-influenced garments you’d expect), the band put on an interesting “show”, singing about whiskey and biker girls breaking their hearts in between “covers” of songs by The Sleeping. They joked about “emo bands being pussies” and “The Sleeping suck[ing]”–it was entirely comical, but the actual The Sleeping songs were solid. Other bands would get into their secret names somewhat, but The Sleeping certainly went above-and-beyond.

Thursday was due up next on my list, so I rushed across the parking lot to the Saints And Sinners side stage to catch the end of Hit The Lights and gain a rail position for Thursday. Hit The Lights closed with “Bodybag”, one of the few songs I somewhat enjoy by them, so it wasn’t too bad sitting through their set to get a rail spot for Thursday. After listening to This Providence play the side stage to the left (from what I heard of their set, they played pretty well; at the end of their set they even proudly proclaimed themselves true Christians, unlike many other Christians who give true ones a bad name).

Wearing bear masks, and under the codename Bearfort, Thursday took the stage opening with “Autobearography Of A Nation”. They followed into “Understanding In A Bear Fort“, and continued their flawless performance with one of my favorite live songs, “How Long Is The Night?”. Geoff Rickly noted that this was the first show of their new lives (now being without a record label) and that they couldn’t be more excited to start fresh. They played “Signals Over The Air” next, and then gave shoutouts to their friends on stage. Geoff kept repeating/asking if his friends we’re “okay” before kicking straight into “At This Velocity”. “Divison St.” followed before the band closed with “Jet Black New Year”. Thursday performed extremely well and put on what I consider the best performance of the weekend.

Motion City Soundtrack played the side stage to the left, and came out to Trey Parker and his band, DVDA’s “America, Fuck Yeah”, the theme from Team America: World Police. As The Great American Freedom Machine, Motion City Soundtrack came out describing themselves as a band from Mexico City, New Mexico, at one point and Paris, France, at another. They played a set primarily of tracks from Commit This Memory: “Attactive Today”, “Makeout Kids” into “Time Turned Fragile”, “LG Fuad”, and “Everything Is Alright”; they also played a brand new song that was much mellower than their older material. They closed their great set with “The Future Freaks Me Out”.

My Chemical Romance and The Black Parade was next on my list, so we took a little break before their set and checked out various merch tents and scored free Monster beverages. At the end of Hellogoodbye (who were horrendous), we rushed to the front of the main stage to wait for My Chemical Romance. A little after 9PM My Chemical Romance took the stage as The Black Parade and performed that album spot-on from start-to-finish, including the Monty Python-influenced hidden track, “Blood”. The set include no shortage of stunning pyrotechnics and a rotating drum platform. Their encore was a short set of five Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge tracks, finally ending Saturday evening with “Helena”.

Sunday began slightly earlier, with Long Island’s Brand New taking the opening slot at 12:05 on the main stage. The band kicked off with “Degausser” and then lead into “Sowing Season”. The band appeared to be upset at playing this festival, or at least playing so early, making remarks along the lines of “there must be some better way to spend your Sunday mornings” and “there must be some better way to spend your money”. “Luca” followed, and the band seemed to be playing pretty well, despite their attitude towards the set. I was actually somewhat proud of the band for a moment–they appeared to be playing what they wanted to play, despite the crowd wanting only to hear “Seventy Times Seven”.

This took a turn in the wrong direction though when Jesse announced something like, “I think I want to play this one again”, and performed “Degausser” once more, this time changing the lyrics and replacing the words with drug-related themes, such as “goodbye to drugs” as the first line of the song. It was apparent he didn’t want to be on stage, clearly messing around with the song this time around. “You Won’t Know” followed, but it was hard to respect the band at this point, even though their performance was still pretty spot on. The band moved on to “Welcome To Bangkok”, performing their ritual and destroying the set and banging on drums with their friends as the song climaxed. The band left the stage, but returned a minute later with “Seventy Times Seven”. Jesse laughed while playing the song, apparently disgusted that this is still the band’s most requested tune.

I had wanted to see Jedi Mind Tricks, but opted to see Anberlin instead. Anberlin was a polar opposite to Brand New, very grateful to be on stage and energetic through their entire set. The band opened with “A Whisper And A Clamor” and then followed with their punchy 2005 single, “Never Take Friendship Personal” which energized the crowd. The band continued with songs from their most recent albums, including “Adelaide” with its huge chorus and the sing-along “Dismantle.Repair”, closing with “Godspeed” to end their extremely solid performance.

The Matches were next, and I nearly caught guitarist Shawn Harris’s pick for the second day in a row. The band played a similar set to Saturday’s TV performance, and they played just as well this time.

Drive-Thru Records’s Halifax were next on my list–a band I’m not necessarily a big fan of, but I was very impressed with how fun their live show was at last year’s Bamboozle. They played well, with the crowd certainly getting into it. The set consisted of staples from The Inevitability Of A Strange World but also mixed it up with old songs such as “Sydney” from their debut EP.

I left Halifax’s set a bit early to see Circa Survive, who put on a solid live performance. The band played primarily songs from Juturna, but vocalist Anthony Green announced midway through the set that they would try out some new material (which sounded great) from their upcoming full-length, On Letting Go. The band closed their set with “In Fear And Faith”, my personal favorite Circa Survive song.

I ventured over to the bubble, showed my credentials to enter the “private” performance, and relaxed to check out Andrew McMahon and Bobby Anderson of Jack’s Mannequin play an acoustic set for BamboozleTV. Before playing, though, vocalist/pianist McMahon was interviewed for the television segment, and the crowd go to ask him some questions. Unfortunately, the questions were either softballs (how do you feel today?) or irrelevant (will you donate money to my charity?).. I would have liked to asked him if bassist Jay “Dr. J” McMillan is indeed a doctor or holds a PhD (McMahon once stated that Dr. J was “the only man on stage with a degree in medicine”).

The interview aside, Jack’s Mannequin played an absolutely stellar acoustic set. McMahon noted that since they were playing electric later, they’d use this more intimate set to play some cover songs. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the band perform nearly ten different covers over the past few years at different shows, so I was hoping they’d surprise me with something new, and they didn’t disappoint. They covered Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire” (a song they originally tried at the Stone Pony in Springsteen’s home town, Asbury Park) much cleaner, and even threw in “A Friend Of The Devil” by The Grateful Dead, a song I hadn’t heard them do yet. A cover of “The Astronaut”, from Something Corporate, was also thrown into the set. It wasn’t just covers, though, as the band performed songs from Everything In Transit such as “Rescued” and “Holiday From Real”.

Jack’s Mannequin’s performance ran late, so the next band I was able to catch was Yellowcard on the main stage. Props to this band for playing exactly the kind of setlist a festival like Bamboozle demands: their punk-pop sing-a-longs, such as “Ocean Avenue”, “Breathing”, “Rough Landing Holly”, and “Way Away”. The band also played “Fighting” off their upcoming follow-up to Lights And Sounds, a track that would fit more into the Ocean Avenue-era of the band.

Perhaps one of the highlights of the second day is Thrice, who played next on the opposing main stage. With only an acoustic tease the day before, I was heavily anticipating the return of Thrice full-band and electric. The band kicked off with “Under A Killing Moon” from The Artist In The Ambulance, an excellent live song that showcases the band’s ability to write meaningful lyrics and mix melody with hardcore. Vheissu‘s “Image Of The Invisible” followed. The crowd was certainly getting into things with some of the best pits of the weekend.

Title track from their 2003 LP “The Artist In The Ambulance” was next, and the band performed the song near perfectly. The tightly wound, speeding guitar riff is no small feat, but Teppei Teranishi makes it look all too easy. As promised, the band played a new song from the Fire-theme disc, and it did not disappoint. The set slowed down for only a few moments with “Atlantic” before kicking back into the heavy hitting riffs of “Deadbolt”, a fan favorite that always receives extra treatment live during its outro.

“Stare At The Sun” was next, and it was nice to hear this song performed electric for the first time in many years. Usually performed acoustic to slow down their set, the band opted to perform this song full-force. Epic “Red Sky” calmed the crowd, and Dustin Kensrue’s voice haunted those who listened during the final chorus and key change. Closing with prison-break inspired and chain-gang chanting “The Earth Will Shake”, Thrice whet the appetite for more but that would be their last song of the evening.

It would be nearly impossible to follow such an incredible set, but Jack’s Manequin did the best anyone could do all day. Also one of the finest live acts to be playing this weekend, the band didn’t hold back and captivated the crowd with their pop driven piano-rock. Although the band could pick nearly any combination of songs from their catalog (essentially just their debut LP, Everything In Transit) and still play an amazing set, the songs they chose were excellent and executed flawlessly. “Dark Blue” was in full form, including the extended introduction. “La Lie Lie” was the perfect sing-a-long, and it was great to hear the original version of this song (with harmonica bridge) after hearing the band perform its demo “West Coast Winter” most of the past year. My favorite from the record, “Bruised”, was spot-on, and it was great to see the fans (and the parents!) jumping along to the chorus.

The band closed with “MFEO”, and it was about this time that Jack’s Mannequin took full control of the Bamboozle crowd as if they were the show’s headliner. Andrew McMahon is unquestionably one of the most powerful and charismatic frontmen the weekend would see. Playing both halves to “MFEO”, with the standard mini-U2 cover of “With Or Without You” thrown into the mix, drummer Jonathan Sullivan pounded the skins during the song’s final minutes while McMahon held the crowd’s attention perfectly with his spot-on vocal delivery.

Next on the list, and last band of the weekend I truly wanted to see, was Taking Back Sunday. Interestingly, the band’s songs have gotten weaker in time (2002’s Tell All Your Friends is arguably their best work from start to finish), but their live show was improve greatly: gone are the immature and sloppy vocals of Adam Lazzara, a vocalist who has improved his live show immensely since earlier in the decade. The set was primarily a Louder Now showcase with half of the songs coming from their latest album, though they did manage to throw in the obligatory “Cute Without The ‘E’ (Cut From Team)”, “You’re So Last Summer”, and “Set Phasers To Sun”. It’s unfortunate that so many great songs from their younger years are excluded to make room for new material, but the band did perform their chosen material quite well live. “Error Operator” is a blast live, and the band executes the driving riff pretty well. Taking Back Sunday closed with what is perhaps their biggest radio hit (as “Cute” would be their biggest “fan hit”), “A Decade Under The Influence”.

Weird Al Yankovic performed on the opposing stage; I caught parts of it as I picked up some t-shits from the SSE Tent (the Syrentha Savio Endowment non-profit organization provides financial assistance to underprivileged women who cannot afford the expense of fighting breast cancer–it’s a great cause and many great bands put out some cool looking shirts for charity).

Around 9PM Linkin Park arrived on the now-heavily decorated main stage and closed the evening and the entire Bamboozle affair. The band played many songs from their first, and strongest disc, Hybrid Theory, including opener “One Step Closer”. The band played a few new songs from Minutes To Midnight, as well as from Meteora. The band slowed down the setlist near the end, with a keyboard-only version of “Pushing Me Away”; unfortunately, Linkin Park excels when they are fast and brash, so the set suffered during these slower moments. The band did pick things up with songs like “Crawling” before leaving, to encore with their biggest hit, “In The End” and then closing with “Faint”.

The entire weekend was a great time, with many great performances by some of the best bands in the scene today. Unfortunately, I missed a lot of bands due to scheduling conflicts, but I did manage to catch all of my favorites. Any comments, suggestions, corrections, or questions about this article are welcome.